New UK visa changes are good news for South Africans looking to move

In the wake of Brexit and the UK’s new skills-based immigration system, South Africans are set to have increased access to UK work visas.

The new immigration system will see South Africans given access to work visas – in some cases with a path to permanent UK residence – based on their skills and qualifications, rather than their nationality, said immigration company Move Up.

“The UK is scrapping their dual EU and non-EU visa system in favour of a more streamlined immigration and work visa process. This is aimed at attracting talent from around the world to keep the UK globally competitive,” said Move Up managing director, Ryan Rennison.

“The playing field has now been levelled – all nationalities will be required to apply for visas under the same skilled worker’s route.

“The major difference is that applicants need to have sponsorship from a UK employer before applying,” said Rennison.

While workers were required to earn a minimum salary of £30,000 (R577,341) per annum to be eligible for this visa, prime minister Boris Johnson has been making headlines for wanting to reduce this threshold even further to £25,600 (R492,665).

According to the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department, these are the most significant changes:

  • The skills threshold has been lowered to intermediate level skills at RQF 3-5 level (A-level or equivalent);
  • The Resident Labour Market Test for the Tier 2 (General) visa has been scrapped;
  • The cap on the number of work visas issued annually has been removed.

New visa option

A new UK visa type will also allow workers of any skill level to live and work in the UK for one year has also been created.

However, the UK Home Secretary has stated that this option will only be available to passport holders from specific countries.

“With the South African government chasing the revocation of UK visitor visas for South African tourists and seemingly meeting some resistance, it’s unclear whether South Africa will be on the list for the one-year work visa,” said Rennison.

“Workers on this scheme will not be able to bring family with them, or access any benefits; furthermore, they will not be allowed to switch to another visa or live in the UK permanently.

“Once the visa has expired, they are legally not allowed to return to work in the UK for one year,” he said.


Read: 3 Schengen visa changes that South Africans need to know about

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New UK visa changes are good news for South Africans looking to move